When living in a society focused on success and superiority, it can become that much easier to succumb to the negative impact of perceptions of the opposite. It’s not a stretch to say that life is never perfect, and everyone must ride the highs and lows of success, happiness, and both physical and mental well-being. But when life’s rhythms drop us to a level of depression, the potential for stigmatization has historically contributed to isolation brought on by the lack of understanding or support.
Fortunately, enormous strides have been made to destigmatize, most notably, specific mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. As we have become armed with information and resources to request help, mental health stigmas have been reduced. This allows us to make behavioral adjustments to incorporate aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced, nutritious diet to improve those issues that can profoundly affect us. And by making small, sustainable changes to your diet, you no longer have to worry about how to make healthy food taste good.
What Depression Feels Like
Depression can feel different for everyone; the list of feelings and symptoms is long and can appear in varying degrees. The most frequently described symptoms can include: extended and overwhelming feelings of sadness, brain fog that impedes concentration and decision-making, a sense of failure and worthlessness, and the loss of pleasure in things that are usually enjoyable.
Physical symptoms can manifest with muscle aches and tension, headaches, depleted energy, and nausea. While the scope of all these characteristics may seem insurmountable, almost anyone can adapt their behavior, especially regarding diet, to help make even the smallest of improvements.
Dietary Baby Steps
The last few decades have provided a wealth of scientific information about the impact of our diets on various physical and mental health concerns. Findings connecting the relationship between diet and depression have impacted how we approach the food we eat to help reduce feelings of depression.
Rather than dramatically overhauling our diets, a few simple steps are a logical, healthy way to begin. As you increase those steps, they will likely have a sustainable, long-term impact. Once this routine is established, removing the foods with little nutritional value and incorporating what is healthy will become easier.
Foods Thought to Be Related to Depression
There are probably no surprises in this list. However, these items are still worthy reminders that some foods, while tasting good and feeling satisfying, can actually harm not only our physical health but also our mental health.
· Refined sugar and foods with high sugar content
· Refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread, and cereal
· Fried food and high-fat, processed meats
· High-sodium processed foods
· Alcohol and energy drinks
Foods Considered Beneficial to Reducing Depression
Perusing the list above, the common denominators become apparent: they are all refined and processed, and none include anything whole and fresh. Reducing and removing some or all of these foods are essential to creating a diet optimal for physical and mental health.
Delicious food options and replacements are linked to lessening feelings of depression. Perform a little dietary research and learn what foods to select and where to find them. Grocery stores, natural foods retailers, and farmers’ markets can supply a diet loaded with fresh food choices to help you start reducing depression and boosting your overall health. Include a variety of:
· Vegetables including dark, leafy greens like kale, arugula, and swiss chard
· Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
· Fruits like bananas for a boost of potassium, and kiwi and citrus for a boost of vitamin C
· Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, walnuts, eggs, and soybeans
· Proteins like lean chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, and legumes
· Low-fat dairies such as unsweetened yogurt and kefir
Remember that old saying about a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step? This journey is about doing some easy math- add a few foods and subtract a few foods. Add some new veggies but subtract some sugary desserts. Changing your diet to help reduce the feelings and effects of depression is a worthwhile journey that will lead to improved health. Healthy diets can change lives!
But never forget, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. Asking for help shows strength and concern for your personal health. It helps navigate this mental health journey along the path of reducing stigma and embracing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.